Celebration of the true spirit of Rajasthan can be witnessed during the innumerable festivals organized here throughout the year. These festivals are splendid opportunities for tourists to experience the life and culture of Rajasthan, as these festivals are a unique blend of the socio-cultural elements. There are festivals held across the state of Rajasthan that are celebrated both on cultural and religious occasions. Men wearing bright red turbans and women adorned with vibrantly colored lehangas and odhnis exhibit a colorful look and reveal the joyous spirit and passion of the people of Rajasthan towards life. During these festivals, the entire Rajasthan takes part in making them a grand event. People from the trading community, different tribal people, and different types of artists bring life to these festivals with their participation. These festivals offer something unique to everyone according to their tastes.
The festivals provide an opportunity to the people of Rajasthan to take a break from the mundane routine life and unite together to be a part of celebrating life in a distinctive Rajasthani way. The desert land comes alive with the splash of colors dashed across the state with the organizing of these festivals. What’s more, these festivals also give the visitors a peek into the royal life of the former rulers of Rajasthan. To add on, Rajasthan has now become a hub of cultural tourism and so have the festivals which are an integral part of the tour to Rajasthan. A number of colorful festivals involving elephants, camel races, music, and dance performances are organized for tourists and visitors. Some of the most recognized festivals of Rajasthan include Mewar Festival, Marwar Festival, Teej Festival, Desert Festival, Gangaur Festival, Kajli Teej Festival, and Bikaner Camel Festival. These festivals play a host to thousands of people every year who make it a point to be present here not just from India but across the globe.
Gangaur is a colourful and the one of the most important festivals of the people of Rajasthan and is observed throughout the state with great fervour and devotion by womenfolk who worship Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva during March–April. It is the celebration of spring, harvest and marital fidelity. Gana is a synonym for Lord Shiva and Gaur which stands for Gauri or Parvati who symbolizes Saubhagya (marital bliss). The unmarried women worship her for being blessed good husband, while married women do so for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands and happy married life.
The festival commences on the first day of chaitra, the day following Holi and continues for 16 days. For a newly-wedded girl, it is binding to observe the full course of 18 days of the festival that succeeds her marriage. Even unmarried girls fast for the full period of the 18 days and eat only one meal a day. Festivity consummates on 3rd day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra Month.Fairs (Gangaur Melas) are held throughout the 18 day period. Numerous folklores are associated with Gangaur which makes this festival deeply ingrained into the hearts of Rajasthan, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana & Gujarat.
Images of Isar and [Parvati |Gauri] are made of clay for the festival. In some Rajput families, permanent wooden images are painted afresh every year by reputed painters called matherans on the eve of festival. A distinct difference between the idols of Teej and Gangaur is that the Idol will have a canopy during the Teej Festival while the Gangaur idol would not have a canopy.
The ladies decorate their hands and feet by drawing designs with Mehndi (myrtle paste). The figures drawn range from the Sun, Moon and the starts to simple flowers or geometrical designs. Ghudlias are earthen pots with numerous holes all around and a lamp lit inside them. On the evening of the 7th day after Holi, unmarried girls go around singing songs of ghudlia carrying the pots with a burning lamp inside, on their heads. On their way, they collect small presents of cash, sweets, jiggery (“gur”), ghee, oil etc. this continues for 10 days i.e. up to the conclusion of the Gangaur festival when the girls break their pots and throw the debris into the well or a tank and enjoys a feast with the collection made.
The festival reaches its climax during the last three days. The images of Gauri and Isar are dressed in new garments especially made for the occasion. Unmarried girls and married women decorate the images and make them look like living figures.
At an auspicious hour in the afternoon, a procession is taken out to a garden, bawdi or johad or well with the images of Isar and Gauri, placed on the heads of married women. Songs are sung about the departure of Gauri to her husband’s house. The procession comes back after offering water to the first two days. On the final day, she faces in the same direction as Isar and the procession concludes in the consignment of the all images in the waters of a tank or a well. The women bid farewell to Gauri and turn their eyes and the Gangaur festival comes to an end.
The Gangaur of Jaipur is famous in all over the world. In Jaipur, a sweet dish called a ghewar is characteristic of the Gangaur festival. People buy ghewar to eat and distribute it among their friends and relatives. A procession, with the image of Gauri, commences from the Zanani-Deodhi of the City Palace. It then passes through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium and finally converge near the Talkatora. People from all walks of life come to witness the procession.
Teej is the festival of swings. It marks the advent of the monsoon month of Shravan (August). The monsoon rains fall on the parched land and the pleasing scent of the wet soil rises into the air. Swings are hung from trees and women dressed in green clothes sing songs in celebration of the advent of the monsoon. This festival is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, commemorating her union with Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati is worshipped by seekers of conjugal bliss and happiness. An elaborate procession is taken out in Jaipur for two consecutive days on the festive occasion which is watched by people in large numbers. The Teej idol is covered with a canopy whereas the Gangaur idol is open. The traditional “ghevar” sweet is also associated with the festival.
- Pushkar Fair
The Pushkar Fair, or Pushkar ka Mela, is the annual five-day camel and livestock fair, held in the town of Pushkar near Ajmer city. It is one of the world’s largest camel fairs, and apart from buying and selling of livestock it has become an important tourist attraction and its highlights have become competitions such as the “matka phod“, “longest moustache”, and “bridal competition” are the main draws for this fair which attracts thousands of tourists. In recent years the fair has also included an exhibition cricket match between the local Pushkar club and a team of random foreign tourists.
Thousands of people go to the banks of the Pushkar Lake where the fair takes place. Men buy and sell their livestock, which includes camels, cows, sheep and goats. The women go to the stalls, full of bracelets, clothes, textiles and fabrics. A camel race starts off the festival, with music, songs and exhibitions to follow.
It is celebrated for five days from the Kartik ekadashi to Kartik Poornima, the full moon day (the 15th) of Kartik (October–November) in the Hindu calendar. The full moon day is the main day and the day, according to legend, when the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the Pushkar Lake, thus numerous people swim in its sacred waters. For the year 2014 it will be celebrated on October 31-November 6.
- Urs Festival, Ajmer
The Urs festival is an annual festival held at Ajmer (a city in Rajasthan), which commemorates the death anniversary of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, (founder of the Chishtiya Sufi order in India). It is held over six days and features night-long dhikr/zikr qawwali singing. The anniversary is celebrated in the seventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine from all over India and abroad.
The Urs of Moinuddin Chishti started in 1212 A.D. It is celebrated every year in the first week of Islamic month of Rajab, on seeing the moon of Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. Drums are beaten to herald the commencement of the annual ceremony.
The word Urs is derived from “uroos”, which means “ultimate meeting of an individual with God”. It is said that Moinuddin Chishti spent the last six days of his life in seclusion in a Huzra (room meant for prayers), and on the sixth day of Rajab he died.
The sixth day of the Urs is regarded as the most special and auspicious. It is called “Chhati Sharif”. It is celebrated on the 6th Rajab between 10:00 A.M. and 1:30 p.m. inside the Mazaar Sharif. Shijra is read by duty bound Khadims of Moinuddin Chishti, and then there is Fariyad (prayers).
Just before the Qu’l (conclusion of Chhati Sharif), Badhaawa (a poem of praise) is sung at the main entrance of the shrine by Qawwals.
Badhaawa is a recitation accompanied only by clapping; no musical instrument is played. It was composed by Syed Behlol Chishty, an ancestor of the present day Khadim community. After its recitation, the ceremony of the Qu’l comes to an end, and Fatiha is recited. The end of the ceremony is marked by firing a cannon at 1:30 p.m.
- Winter Festival at Mount Abu, Rajasthan
The Winter Festival at Mount Abu, Rajasthan is held annually from 29–31 December. The festival is jointly organised by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation and the Municipal Board of Mount Abu.
Mount Abu, situated at an altitude of 1,219 m above sea level, is the only hill station in Rajasthan.
The Winter Festival features traditional dancing, concerts, fairs, and a fireworks display; participants include folk artists from majorly Rajasthan and also from Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The festival opens with a procession to Nakki Lake.
Other attractions of the festival include stage performance of Sufi Kathak and folk dances such as Daph, Ghoomar and Gair, and entertainments such as kite-flying, hot air ballooning, cricket, gilli danda, poetry reading and music performances.
- Desert Festival, Jaisalmer
This is a 3 days festival held in January or February each year during which the otherwise barren land of Jaisalmer comes to life and displays some cherished moments of its illustrious past and affluent culture. Traditional dances backed by high-pitched music create an out-of-this-world environment. The Turban Tying Competition and Mr. Desert contest give a totally distinct touch to the festival.
The famous Gair dancers and the traditional fire dancers leave the crowd enchanted and asking for more. The festival ends with a trip to the sand dunes where you can enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride while viewing dancers and musicians displaying their skills. It will be a time that you will cherish for years to come.